The Silent Parade against lynching in America

‘America has lynched without trial 2,867 Negroes in 31 years and not a single murderer has suffered.

“10,000 black men, women, and children wordlessly paraded down NYC’s Fifth Avenue in 1917. Their tactic was silence, but their message resounded: anti-black violence is unjust and un-American.”

From Bowery Boys History

“The Silent Parade of July 28, 1917, was unlike anything ever seen in New York City. Today it is considered New York’s (and most likely America’s) first African-American civil rights march…

“This extraordinary procession was organized by the burgeoning National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a group of concerned black and white activists and intellectuals which had formed less than a decade earlier in New York.

“The march was organized in direct response to a horrible plague of violence against black Americans in the 1910s, culminating in the East St. Louis Riots, a massacre involving white mobs storming black neighborhoods in sheer racial animus. Two sets of riots in May and July 1917 left almost 200 people dead. Rioters burned black neighborhoods, cutting off water hoses and watched as families fled the burning buildings — to be picked off by gunmen.”

Google is financially supporting, and highlighting on its page, the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America presentation, which you should spend time listening to.


“‘The children will lead the parade followed by the Women in white, while the Men will bring up the rear. The laborer, the professional man – all classes of the Race – will march on foot to the beating of muffled drums…’

“The flyer also contained a list of mottos that were to be used on posters during the Silent Parade. Among them:

“‘Make America safe for Democracy.’
‘Thou shalt not kill.’
‘America has lynched without trial 2,867 Negroes in 31 years and not a single murderer has suffered.’
‘200,000 Black men fought for your liberty in the Civil War.’
‘The first blood for American Independence was shed by a Negro- Crispus Attucks.”
‘12,000 of us fought with Jackson at New Orleans.'”

The song Strange Fruit, and lynching in America

My near-relative Arnold linked to several versions of Strange Fruit, including one by Billie Holiday,

strange.fruitI groaned when an Austin, TX public relations firm used “Strange Fruit” as part of its name before changing it last year. The headline said that “some say” was was “racially insensitive.” I’d say so.

As Wikipedia notes, the song Strange Fruit “protested American racism, particularly the lynching of African Americans.”

The Equal Justice Institute (EJI) released a report in February 2015 about lynching in the United States between 1877 to 1950.

Their research indicates that “hundreds more of African American men, women, and children were lynched during that time period than previously thought, bringing the number of victims to nearly 4,000.”

At some point, I may have linked to this 2012 story of the man behind the song. Here are the lyrics.

Annie Lennox did a cover of Strange Fruit which caused some controversy in 2014, though I was not bothered personally.

My near-relative Arnold linked to several versions, including one by Billie Holiday, with whom the song may be most associated. Listen also to Cassandra Wilson’s take.

Surely, the song The Hanging Tree, from the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, borrows thematically from Strange Fruit.

The EJI data fueled this New York Times map of 73 Years of Lynchings from 1877 to 1950 in 12 Southern states.

From the EJI report:

Lynching was a form of terrorism used against Blacks during that time period, where mobs of Whites would hang, burn, shoot, and beat Blacks to death as a form of intimidation and control.

One of those who lost their lives was soldier William Little.

An excerpt:

“The year 1919 was a time of resurgence by the Ku Klux Klan. Seventy-six Blacks lost their lives to mob violence in southern states that year. One of them, Private William Little of Blakely, Ga., was apparently lynched precisely because he was wearing his uniform.

“The accounts of the time state that a few days after being mustered out, he took a train home and was beaten by local Whites for wearing his uniform around town.

“The mob made him remove it.

“A couple of days later, he was caught wearing it again — Little protested that he had no other clothes — and was beaten to death and left at the end of town.”

The lynching and torture of blacks in the Jim Crow South weren’t just acts of racism. “They were religious rituals.”

A Black Mississippi Judge’s Breathtaking Speech To 3 White Murderers. The murder of “a 48-year-old black man named James Craig Anderson in a parking lot in Jackson, Miss., one night in 2011. They were part of a group that beat Anderson and then killed him by running over his body with a truck, yelling “white power” as they drove off.”

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